A fascinating examination of J.D. Salinger and his landmark novel, The Catcher in the Rye
Since its publication in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye has been a cultural phenomenon, not only as an assigned text for English courses, but as a touchstone for generations of alienated youth. But who was J.D. Salinger, and how did he come to write a novel whose impact continues to resonate with millions of readers?
In J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye: A Cultural History, Josef Benson examines the legacy of an elusive author and his work. After exploring how the novel reflected Salinger’s tortured psyche, Benson discusses how the book made an impact on generations of readers—from 1960s counter-culture youth and followers of the Black Power movement of the 1970s to the disenfranchised teens of the Reagan era and the celebrity-fixated masses of the present day. In addition, Benson unravels the mystery behind Salinger’s reclusiveness, the effects the novel had on the reading public who adored it, and why three American assassins cited the novel as an inspiration.
J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye also considers why this work of fiction has been among the most widely taught—and most frequently banned—books of all time. By looking at the novel as both an artifact of the 1950s as well as a living testament to the turmoil of teenage angst, this book provides a riveting discussion of one of the most enigmatic novels and authors of all time.
Josef Benson is an associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin Parkside. He is the author of Hypermasculinities in the Contemporary Novel: Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin and Star Wars: The Triumph of Nerd Culture.